The New Rebels Who Just Want What Their Mums and Dads Want; from Quiffs to Shaved Heads and Spiky Hair to Black Eyeliner, STEPHEN LAMBERT Traces the Origins and Demise of Youth Culture in the UK

The Journal (Newcastle, England), February 27, 2015 | Go to article overview

The New Rebels Who Just Want What Their Mums and Dads Want; from Quiffs to Shaved Heads and Spiky Hair to Black Eyeliner, STEPHEN LAMBERT Traces the Origins and Demise of Youth Culture in the UK


Byline: STEPHEN LAMBERT

THE idea of 'youth-culture' or 'teenage culture' was first coined in the 1950s in America and exported to Britain in 1959. Many writers at the time believed a "society within a society'' was evolving which posed a threat to mainstream values. In other words a "generation gap" had opened up.

The notion of a Youth Culture or sub-culture suggested that the young aged 14 to 23 were being 'socialised' into a special set of values, attitudes and behaviour patterns separate from those of adult society.

The market researcher, Mark Abrams, maintained that this new classless phenomena was a product of affluence and rising living standards. Teenagers had more cash. A new commercial industry revolving around clothes, music and milk bars emerged to meet the demands of young people. It appealed to all social classes.

As the sociologist Berger noted: "Youth culture cuts across class lines. It creates symbols and patterns of behaviour that are capable of giving status upon individuals coming from quite different class backgrounds.'' Other sociologists noted that adolescence was a period of preparation for adulthood. Personal problems were commonplace as they negotiated their "rite of passage".

"Group rebellion'' against adult society was predicable amongst the young. Put simply, youth culture was best understood as being a reaction to being young. In the States teenage culture was reflected in popular culture through films like Rebel Without a Cause featuring James Dean and music by Bill Haley and Elvis Presley.

But it wasn't until the mid '50s that Teddy Boys appeared on the British social scene. Marked by their drainpipe trousers, Edward VII long coats and slicked back hair, many Teds gained the reputation of being aggressive, tearing up cinema seats and beating up West Indians in music halls.

By the 1960s Mods and rockers emerged mostly from workingclass backgrounds. The Mods with their parkas took R &B and soul to their 'purple hearts' and sped to all-night clubs on Lambrettas or Vespa scooters. Rockers clad in leather and chains had beefier motorbikes and were hostile to the comparatively effete mods. Street battles took place at Margate and Brighton and triggered national press hysteria and a moral panic amongst respectable society - though some say the violence was over-exaggerated. …

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The New Rebels Who Just Want What Their Mums and Dads Want; from Quiffs to Shaved Heads and Spiky Hair to Black Eyeliner, STEPHEN LAMBERT Traces the Origins and Demise of Youth Culture in the UK
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